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Br J Surg. 2012 Apr;99(4):494-505. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7763. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Imaging vascular trauma.

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  • 1St George's Vascular Institute, St George's University of London, London, UK.



Over the past 50 years the management of vascular trauma has changed from mandatory surgical exploration to selective non-operative treatment, where possible. Accurate, non-invasive, diagnostic imaging techniques are the key to this strategy. The purpose of this review was to define optimal first-line imaging in patients with suspected vascular injury in different anatomical regions.


A systematic review was performed of literature relating to radiological diagnosis of vascular trauma over the past decade (2000-2010). Studies were included if the main focus was initial diagnosis of blunt or penetrating vascular injury and more than ten patients were included.


Of 1511 titles identified, 58 articles were incorporated in the systematic review. Most described the use of computed tomography angiography (CTA). The application of duplex ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging/angiography and transoesophageal echocardiography was described, but significant drawbacks were highlighted for each. CTA displayed acceptable sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing vascular trauma in blunt and penetrating vascular injury within the neck and extremity, as well as for blunt aortic injury.


Based on the evidence available, CTA should be the first-line investigation for all patients with suspected vascular trauma and no indication for immediate operative intervention.

Copyright © 2011 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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